Part 3 : My Journey to Sobriety – Bumps in the Road
Today is Day 50.
Not quite 50 days without absolutely any alcohol, but 50 days since I made the decision to change my relationship with the poison.
My best friend Adele’s wedding on 2nd June, 32 days after my last alcoholic drink, was always going to be a big bone of contention between me and, well, myself. Could I get through Adele and Ryan’s wedding without a drink? Did I even want to?
My Best Friend’s Wedding
This wedding was always going to be the ultimate test of my strength and willpower. A proper northern knees up. A day of celebration and merriment A room full of old school friends, drinks flowing and everyone getting shitfaced. Not forgetting speech obligations – it was a huge success.
Many of the guests knew I wasn’t drinking, so from the outset, there was the pressure that came with wanting to prove to everyone that I had that strength and willpower not to drink. There were some who wanted me to have ‘a few drinks’, because, let’s face it, who can have fun at a wedding without getting wankered? They love the shitfaced Lyndsey. Under the influence I’m a fucking legend at a party. Or so I think I am. And then there were those who advised me to make my own decision and not to feel guilty about the choices I made. As long as I enjoyed the day and was mindful about those choices. Mr T fell into this category, as did my beautiful friend Adele – the bride. There was probably a very small minority who I expect wanted me to fail – because there is always a hater in every one of life’s scenarios. Whatever. Anyway, the long and short of it is I ended up having a few G&Ts once the speeches were wrapped up around 6pm – 32 days after my last alcoholic drink.
Because I’m not going to lie, in that environment when everyone else was knocking back the booze like it was going out of fashion – including my husband – it was like being on the outside of a giant fuck-off fishbowl looking in.
I was aloof. The more alcohol my fellow guests consumed, the more detached I felt from them. Worse still, the more detached I felt from my husband.
He was doing his standard social butterfly shit – cracking jokes with his fellow stags, hugging my friends, laughing and storytelling – and I’ll admit, I felt a little jealous of all these people having fun, having a drink, relaxing, regaling, entertaining each other. I just wasn’t on their wavelength whilst sipping on a lime and lemonade. I wasn’t enjoying myself to the full extent that I should be doing at my best friend’s wedding. It wasn’t that I was desperate for a drink, more so I wanted to feel part of what was going on rather than like the spare fucking part.
Who am I?
Yep, I know, this all begs the question why I don’t feel confident and comfortable enough in my own skin to be in such an environment sober. Why do I feel this overwhelming sense of exclusion and the inability to have fun when I’m not under the influence when everyone else is in most social situations? I’ve spend the last 20 years getting shitfaced at every social opportunity. Confidence, frivolity and self-assurance built of a foundation of wine, champagne, shots, cocktails, and everything in between. Perhaps I never will be wholly comfortable totally sober, but then maybe time will bring with it a new-found confidence and calm. Right now I’m struggling with the calm that a social occasion with little or no alcohol brings with it. For 20 or so years, my ‘fun’ has been fuelled by alcohol. My booze-fuelled energy has actually defined me as a person. Without that exuberance, am I even the same person?
The last three weeks really have been an exhausting mix of questions, struggles and emotions.
Who am I? Why am I fucking doing this? Am I morphing into a dull, lifeless version of my former self? Is this new me effecting my relationship with my husband? Will I end up with some abstemious arsehole who takes himself too seriously and prefers protein shakes to pints? Can I have one or two drinks and stop?
I’m not sure that I want to be entirely abstemious from alcohol for the rest of my life, but what I do know is that no amount of alcohol tastes better, and no amount of my ‘fun’ is more rewarding and satisfying than the feeling of waking up with no hangover. This is forcing me to continue on this journey. To say no. To face all of these struggles, emotions and questions, and to tackle them head-on. Had it have not been for Adele’s wedding nearly three weeks ago when I gave into the Gordons, I would have been proudly flying the ‘one month sober’ flag just days later. I am not beating myself up about it though. My entire approach to drinking that evening shifted. Something in my head has shifted. And those who love me and care about me applauded me, not for not drinking, but for drinking in a way that I never have. To some extent, controlling my drinking is harder than not drinking at all. Conscious that wine is my nemesis, however much I love the taste and the feeling that that first hit – the first mouthful of a chilled glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc gives me, I can’t sip and savour the stuff – I knock it back like water and a bottle is never enough. So I avoided the wine at all costs because I can’t trust myself with it.
The wedding aftermath
The day after the wedding was a struggle. Even after only five of six very watered down G&Ts (two tonics to every single measure of gin) my head pounded because my body had been free of the poison for over a month. I don’t suffer from hangovers, or least I didn’t. I suffered from a week-long stretch of anxiety, depression, sluggishness, brain fog and lack of motivation. But an actual hangover – defined by a number of unpleasant physiological effects such as a headache and sickness that last, at the very most, 24hrs – I didn’t get these, because, to an extent my body has become immune to the short-term effects alcohol plays. It’s the psychological side effects and the long term consequences on my organs that are taking the brunt of my cosy long-weekend relationship with the wine bottle.
Back to the morning after…
I reminded myself the morning after the wedding that I had had a great night celebrating my best friend’s wedding. I’d had had a shitload of fun with my husband and my friends in an adult environment and I danced my stilettos off. For the first time possibly ever, I was so very mindful about what, and just how much I was drinking at the wedding – rather than smashing the booze back like pop, with a shot of Jaeger in-between each wine course, with no thoughts for the consequences.
I was conscious of my dance moves and my choice of conversational topics.
I left the band and all the instruments alone. I stayed awake for the entire affair. I didn’t insult anyone. I kept my swearing to a unusually low level. I didn’t lose anything – this is all colossal progress. Two days after the event I had a spell of regret. I was so looking forward to scribbling the words “4 WEEKS SOBER TODAY” in thick black marker on a big piece of paper and parading it all over my social media channels in my usual ‘LOOK AT FUCKING ME!’ manner. But that is not the point of all this is it? The point of my journey is to change habits and adjust my relationship with alcohol in a way that results in only positive effects and practical impact on my life and the lives of those who are important to me.
The Hen do – from Super Hero to Zero
Just to remind you, and myself of how far I have come in such a short time, I’ll regale you with my somewhat thwarting antics on Adele’s hen do in Dublin four weeks before the wedding:
Dressed as superheroes, we quaffed Prosecco on the 8am flight from Leeds Bradford. Washed an Irish breakfast down with a pint of lager at 10am, and the rest, as they say, is history. Only I couldn’t for the life in me give you a history lesson on anything from 2pm onwards – I have very little recollection of that afternoon’s events. I have a handful of blurry memories. Some of which include trying to wrench the guitar off a non-too-pleased band member of the live gig on Temple Bar. I wanted to be the 6th member of that five piece, right there, right then, and I wasn’t giving up until I got that guitar. I was all but thrown out. It was probably that 4th Jagerbomb that tipped me over the edge around midday so I had a 30 minute snooze in another bar, curled up on the windowsill next to another band in full swing – I know this because some random person sent me a couple of pictures of me via Messenger in the most awkward looking sleep position, dribbling, with people’s belongings – coats, bags, an umbrella or two piled high on me. I was asked to leave. Apparently. Who knows what happened next.
Worryingly, throughout this shitstorm of events, my passport, sunglasses, various items of makeup and my debit card fell out of my unzipped bag at some point on Temple Bar. Most of which, by a shear stroke of luck, were handed back to me later that day by one of the hens. I woke up on day two of that crazy weekend fully clothed and in a right fucking state but counting myself lucky that I did actually walk up in my hotel bed and not in some gutter. My brain felt like it had been vacuum-packed, I was covered in bruises and I was sporting a stencilled glitter butterfly on my left cheek (wtf?). There was only one thing for it… hair of the dog.
So I got straight back on it for the next 48 hours – because I was a frigging hardcore legend, the life and soul of the party, the chief hen, an absolute ma-chine. And because I didn’t know when to stop.
I’m also a mummy, a wife, a business owner and I’m nearly 40.
Have I had a drink since the wedding three weeks ago? The answer is yes. I have had 1.5 glasses of prosecco in a hot tub in hull – a cup of tea followed. I’ve also had one glass of red wine on two separate occasions, both with friends. Other than that, zilch, nothing, nada. Apart from a lot of Heineken 0%, which has been my savour when the sugary Elderflower cocktails have gotten too much.
There has been some bumps, but every journey has bumps, the key is I’m travelling in the right direction. Thanks again for all your support folks, you are all keeping me a strong. Lyndsey x
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I’m a primary school teacher and I’m a mum to a beautiful, bright and bubbly six-year-old. I witness the ups and downs of wellbeing in children every day. Every parent faces the same dilemma – how to ensure the wellbeing of our children – particularly from a mental health perspective in a world that is more pressured than ever in more ways than one.
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